The importance of breath is receiving immense attention to tackle daily stress and encourage healthy lifestyles. It has been proven by much scientific research that the breath has an impact on the brain and mind. Many believe breath and mind are best friends, and together they have an amazing story to tell. The moment a child is born and takes its first breath, the saga of mind-breath friendship commences. Mind and breath are interdependent and form a unique bond to balance the right paradigm of life. They respond to each other in a way, which is serene and pious. However, the trajectory of the two is getting distorted in the mundane world. Here, the five senses take over the mind, blurring and clogging the cognitive perspective of life, with unending desires and attachments, making one ride endlessly, the waves of pleasure and pain sweep away many contrasting dualities, leaving man obfuscated about his emotions.
Because of the signals emitted by the five senses, the mind overpowers the breath, and thus all thoughts arise in the mind and cloud the imagination. The pace and quality of breath going in and out of the body is dependent on the state of the self-driven mind at any given point of time. A disturbed mind, infused with toxic thoughts can manifest dark emotions. Consequently, this leads to an increase in palpitation of the heart, leading to shortness of breath. When people labor too much to breathe, the mind becomes anxious and restless with racing thoughts. The restlessness of the mind is a common experience for most people, and undoubtedly, as the breath follows the mind, indisposition of the body related to a poor oxygen supply, heart problems, and depression, among several other illnesses, are also rampant. On the other hand, it is also a common experience that we think positively, we feel calmer, and our breath is correspondingly slow and deep. This ensures proper intake of oxygenated air into the body leading to a calmer mind.
Many yogic saints believed that breath is a thread that helps to strike a balance between body and mind. It propagates a path to eternity and way to Almighty by connecting the soul to the body. In the state of breathlessness, the mind is completely still and relaxed, which is the pedestal of God. It envisages a splurge in the outward flow of energies, which helps in pervading a sense of utmost consciousness and self-awareness.
Kriya Yoga: Spiritual Technique to calm the mind through breath
One such form of Yoga is Kriya Yoga. It is a comprehensive spiritual path in mediation, yoga, and ethical living. This form of yoga was initiated by the spiritual master Paramhansa Yogananda. It refers to a specific mediation technique, pranayama, or breathing practice that is the path of Yogananda’s path of Kriya Yoga. Traditionally Kriya Yoga is used to achieve union with the Divine. It is a technique of awakening the energy of the spine. Through it, one can control the energies of life and by mentally drawing up and down through the spine.
The benefits of the Kriya Yoga path of meditation are multiple. Through regular practice of meditation techniques, subtle transformation takes place in one’s body, mind, and inmost consciousness. Some benefits can be experienced right away, while others get unleashed progressively and may take little time to become apparent. Some of these benefits can be enumerated as under:
- Meditation through Kriya Yoga brings objectivity and intuitive knowledge of how to address the problems that arise in the course of daily life.
- It brings greater harmony and joy to relationships and family life, paving the way for unconditional love.
- Kriya Yoga is a gateway to connect to the Almighty. It helps to attune one’s consciousness to the Divine, bestowing inner happiness and contentment.
- Kriya Yoga facilitates the mind to be calm, which, in turn, keeps the mind steady for the greater attention span.
- It harmonizes the life forces in the body, removing harmful stress and promoting vitality.
Practices to cleanse the breath
Pranayama is the practice of cleansing our breath and accordingly help to process our consciousness and thoughts. It calls for deep inhalation and exhalation. Breath and mind have a close connection. If the flow of breath is erratic, the thoughts are aligned. If the breath is slow, smooth long, and deep, then the lungs get oxygenated air, which also fills the brain with oxygen. Hence the mind and breath are deeply connected. Given below are a few types of pranayama to control stress and improve breathing to calm the mind.
- Abdominal Breathing technique:
Those nerve-wracking moments of our lives, when it becomes really difficult to handle the stress and maintain the inner-sanity, abdominal breathing comes as a blessing. This technique can be really helpful before experiencing a particularly stressful event, like taking an exam, where our hearts start pounding just by thinking about the same. The procedure to do this is to place one hand on your chest and other on your belly. Inhale taking deep breaths to create a slight stretching sensation in your lungs. Exhale slowly. It sets a serene sense of tranquillity in our minds and thereby in dealing with stress.
- Kapalbhati Pranayama
Otherwise known as Skull Cleanser, Kapalbhati Pranayama means skull shining breath. The main aim of this asana is to clear the mucus in the air passages, relieve congestion, reduce bloating, and improve lung capacity. However, it also facilitates in inducing an invigorating breath that can build body heat, that facilitates a proper bowel moment, which in turn helps in fighting a stressful mind. You need to start sitting seat comfortably with a tall, straight spine and exhale completely. Inhale briefly through both the nostrils, then sharply exhale (again out of your nose) while pulling your navel in towards the spine. The exhalation should be quick and active while inhalation short and passive.
- Ujjayi Pranayama
This breathing exercise caters to reducing the stress and anxiety level in the brain and thereby providing for a calmer mind. Ujjayi means ‘victorious breath’ concerning ocean breath due to the sound it creates. It encourages the full extension of lungs, and by focusing your attention on your breath, it can assist in calming the mind. For this, you need to take a steady breath through both the nostrils. Inhale until you reach the lung capacity and hold your breath for a second. Then constrict some breath to the back of your throat, mimicking a whisper or secret, and exhale through both the nostrils.
- Sitali Pranayama:
The term ‘sitali’ means cooling. Sitali Prayanama requires you to roll the tongue until the outer edge forms a tube. Then you have to inhale through the mouth, taking all the air that you can. It may make a hissing sound. After inhaling, bring the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth and seal your lips. Feel the coolness of the breath during inhalation and exhale through the nostrils. This breath envisages clearing heat with freshness and thus brings out a sense of tranquillity in mind.
- Bhramari Pranayama
All those buzzing thoughts that keeping pounding your mind and make it irritable and disruptive can cause severe stress and anxiety issues. BHramari or bee breath helps in putting a brake into this depressive anguish and thoughts and thereby promotes calmness. It is a boon for hypertension or people with disturbed sleep patterns. You need to cover both the ears with your fingers and start inhaling with closed eyes. After holding the breath for a second, exhale and feel rejuvenated.
- Nadi Shodhan Pranayama:
Lack of concentration and a wandering mind, pose some serious threat to the professional productivity and effectiveness of a person. Consequently, failure or lack of appreciation can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety. Experts believe that trying nine rounds of the Nadi Shodhan Pranayama( alternate nostril breathing), following a ten-minute meditation, can help subside the effects of stress and trauma. This exercise calms the brain down and centers the mind by bringing harmony between both the hemispheres of the brain. You need to breathe through one nostril while the other will be closed with the thumb, hold the breath for a few seconds, and then exhale through the other nostrils. This can be continued alternately.
- Kumbhaka Pranayama:
This exercise essentially translates to being able to retain your breath for longer. If you inhale fully and wait for 10 seconds, you will be able to inhale more. Holding breath increases the pressure inside the lungs and give them time to fully expand, increasing their capacity. As a result, the blood that flows in the heart and brain will be more oxygenated. It is an excellent remedy for distressed and anxious people. They can facilitate a calmer and rejuvenate a sense of being through the same.
So slow down and pay attention to your breaths. Let the mind and breath mingle around and give up a therapeutic experience to distress your brain from all the anxiety and distortion.
See Also: 10 Best Poses of Yoga for Daily Life